Richland, Washington — A Christian florist in Washington has been leveled with a lawsuit from the state over her refusal to accommodate homosexual weddings.
As previously reported, Barronelle Stutzman was approached last month by one of her longtime customers, Robert Ingersoll, a homosexual, as he wanted her to supply the flowers for his upcoming ceremony with his partner, Curt.
“I just took his hands and said, ‘I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman told reporters.
Ingersoll said that he was surprised by her words.
“I would send bouquets [to my partner] saying, ‘love Rob, to Kurt,’ so it came as a shock to me because I’ve had a 9-year relationship with Barronelle, and have never thought there was a reason that she wouldn’t,” he stated. “I makes me want to cry thinking about it. I respect her.”
After Ingersoll decided to post on Facebook about the matter, controversy arose on both sides of the issue — both for and against Stutzman. The florist said that she received a number of threatening and angry comments.
“It blew way out of proportion,” Stutzman explained. “I’ve had hate mail. I’ve had people that want to burn my building. I’ve had people that will never shop here again and [vow to] tell all their friends.”
However, now the state has become involved, and on March 28th, Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued Stutzman a letter advising that she must accommodate homosexual ceremonies or be subject to a lawsuit and heavy fines.
“Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation,” he wrote. “This means that as a seller of goods or services, you will not refuse to sell floral arrangements for same-sex weddings if you sell floral arrangements for opposite-sex weddings.”
He included with his letter a form that offered Stutzman the opportunity to recant and agree to comply with the law. She refused.
Her attorney JD Bristol states that Stutzman conducts business with homosexuals on a regular basis and that she has even had homosexual employees. However, she cannot fulfill requests surrounding homosexual “marriage.”
“This is about gay marriage, it’s not about a person being gay,” he told The Seattle Times. “She has a conscientious objection to homosexual marriage, not homosexuality. It violates her conscience.”
Bristol opined that the state is rather showing favoritism to homosexuality over Christianity.
“What the government is saying here is that you don’t have the right to free religious exercise,” he said.
Therefore, because Stutzman will not violate her conscience in order to comply with the law, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the florist this week, seeking a permanent injunction in an attempt to force her to accommodate homosexual ceremonies. He is also asking that she be fined $2,000 for every order that she refuses surrounding a same-sex “wedding.”
The Family Policy Institute of Washington says that it will fight for the florist as long as it takes.
“We will be helping to assemble Washington citizens to support this small business and communicate to our elected officials that this harassment is not being done with the consent of the governed,” stated director Joseph Backholm. “Now that the law says marriage is genderless, those who think otherwise are much more likely to be confronted with the Hobbesian choice to conform or be punished.”